Center for Plastic Surgery
1945 Old Gallows Road, Suite 400
Tysons Corner, VA 22182
Phone: (703) 560-2850
Monday - Friday: 8 a.m.–5 p.m.

Center for Plastic Surgery
5550 Friendship Blvd, Suite 130
Chevy Chase, MD 20815
Phone: (301) 652-7700
Monday - Friday: 8 a.m.–5 p.m.

Are You Looking at a Real “Result” in Before-and-After Photos?

Center for Plastic Surgery

“If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.” We’ve all heard this adage. But what about dramatic before-and-after photos that are so often shown to advertise a plastic surgery procedure? Aren’t we supposed to see dramatic results from plastic surgery?

Men and women understandably want noticeable results from cosmetic surgery, and photos that give examples of just how different a patient looks after a procedure can provide an idea of the results he or she might have. However, some providers have been known to show misleading plastic surgery photos in advertisements and on websites to attract more patients.

So how do you know when you’re looking at actual patient results? Here are some common red flags that should make you question the results shown in the photo.

  • Lighting differences. Results can be lit to show the patient “in a more flattering light” as the saying goes—so check that the lighting in both the before and the after photos is consistent. The amount of light used or the position of a light can make a big difference.
  • Discrepancies in angles. Look closely at the position of the patient in before-and-after photos. Some facelift “before” photos show patients with their heads angled downward, while “after” photos show them with their heads tilted upward. Tummy tuck and liposuction photos can also use patient positioning to fool the eye—make sure that both “before” and “after” photos are similarly cropped and that the patient is seen at the same size in both photos. You can check this by comparing a part of the body that wasn’t changed in the surgery.
  • Wearing cosmetics. Is the woman in the photos wearing makeup in both photos? Often patients wear no makeup and do not smile in “before” pictures, but wear makeup with beaming smiles in “after” shots. The cliché “smiling improves face value” holds in this case—a smile and some makeup can make the results look a lot more dramatic than they actually are.
  • Other chicanery. There are a number of other subtle tricks that can be used to make results appear more dramatic. It’s important to look carefully at before-and-after photos to notice slight differences. For example, in one “before” photo advertising a new fat reducing procedure, a man is shown pinching a large roll of fat in his abdomen, while the “after” shot shows him pinching a much smaller fat roll. A careful look at the photo shows the man’s fingers in different positions on the abdomen, making the reduction of the fat roll seem much more dramatic.

Patients must view cosmetic surgery results photos with a discerning eye. In addition to the manipulations listed above, some practitioners may advertise using photos from other practices or even manufacturers—not their own results, in other words. If you’re interviewing surgeons for a procedure, be sure to ask whether you are viewing their actual results when you’re looking at photos. The photo gallery on our website features only our own patients, and if you see a photo supplied by a manufacturer on one of our procedure pages, it will be clearly marked as such. We have many more before-and-after photos we can share with you when you visit us for a consultation. We’re proud to show you our results!

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